In the Amazon, the land used for agriculture and livestock surged from 3% to 16% between 1985 and 2022
Proportion of native vegetation has declined to 64% from 75% — Foto: Valter Campanato/Agência Brasil
The latest survey (released Thursday) from MapBiomas reveals that Brazil has lost 96 million hectares of native vegetation from 1985 to 2022. This is equivalent to 2.5 times the territory of Germany. The proportion of native vegetation has declined from 75% to 64%. Agriculture activities have encroached upon Brazilian biomes, except for the Mata Atlântica, which remains the most deforested. In the last decade, the loss of native vegetation has accelerated.
Currently, there are two new fronts of deforestation in agricultural expansion zones: the region known as Matopiba (encompassing parts of the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí, and Bahia) and in the western Amazon, along the borders of Amazonas, Rondônia, and Acre, a tri-state area known as Amacro.
In Amacro, agricultural use has expanded tenfold in the last 38 years, reaching 5.3 million hectares—or 21% of the region’s area. In the northeastern Cerrado region of Matopiba, agricultural activities have expanded by 14 million hectares, totaling 25 million hectares in 2022, equivalent to 35% of the territory.
In the Amazon, the area occupied by agriculture has surged from 3% to 16% over the period. In the Pantanal, this increase was from 5% to 15%. In the Pampa region, it grew from 29% to 44%. In the Caatinga, from 33% to 40%. Agricultural activities now cover half of the Cerrado—compared to just over a third (34%) in 1985. Pastures have spread over 61.4 million hectares, while agriculture has claimed 41.9 million hectares.
Soybean cultivation has extended across all biomes. In 1985, it covered 4.5 million hectares, increasing to 39.4 million hectares in 2022. This shift is altering the historical profile of the Pampa, which, much like the Pantanal, has historically relied on native pastures for cattle ranching.
These are some of the findings from the “Annual Land Cover and Land Use Mapping in Brazil from 1985 to 2022 – Collection 8.” MapBiomas is a network of NGOs, universities, and technology companies that monitor and analyze changes in the Brazilian landscape.
The survey highlights how the loss of native vegetation accelerated with Brazil’s new Forest Code of 2012. Satellite imagery shows that in the five years before the new law (2008-2012), loss amounted to 5.8 million hectares. However, in the subsequent five years (2013-2018), the loss rose to 8 million hectares. From 2018 to 2022, it reached 12.8 million hectares—a 120% growth compared to before the new Code.
The team analyzed the annual evolution of native vegetation loss in five-year periods since 1992, the year of the Rio 92 Conference, the UN Conference on Environment and Development—The Earth Summit.
“The period of greatest loss was just before the Forest Code was approved in 2012. Since then, the loss has accelerated even further with increased deforestation. Instead of getting closer to the goal of protecting Brazilian native vegetation as set out in the New Forest Code and the commitment to end deforestation by the end of this decade, we are moving away from it,” said Tasso Azevedo, General Coordinator of MapBiomas, in a press release.
Another striking data point is that of all the conversion of native vegetation over five centuries in the country—green areas that turned into cities or agricultural activities—33% occurred in the last 38 years. In the Amazon and the Cerrado, this process equaled the area of France.
This edition of MapBiomas also provides data on areas where the original vegetation has been cleared but now shows signs of regeneration. Secondary vegetation, as it’s called, covered 44 million hectares in 2022. Data is available for 29 land use classes, including areas with oil palms and floodable forests.
The loss of native vegetation occurred in 25 states between 1985 and 2022. São Paulo remained stable (albeit with only 21% of native vegetation remaining), and only Rio de Janeiro recorded a slight increase in vegetation.
Indigenous lands are another highlight, covering 13% of the national territory and containing 19% of the country’s native vegetation, with only a 1% loss in the last three decades.
According to the statement, the data also raises concerns about water and wetlands in the Pantanal.
In 1985, the Pantanal consisted of 47% water and wetlands. During the last flood in 2018, flooding covered 36% of the biome. By 2022, only 12% of the biome was identified as water and wetlands.
The data also shows that 64% of the country is covered by native vegetation, with agriculture occupying 33%. Private properties hold 41% of the country’s native vegetation.
*Por Daniela Chiaretti — São Paulo
Source: Valor International